Is the “Safe Rule” as Safe as it Sounds? Developments Regarding the Fight Over Automobile Emissions Standards

The battle surrounding the regulation of automobile emissions standards lost some steam last week after a number of major automakers withdrew their support of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule enacted by the Trump administration.

Certain major car manufactures are looking to exit the federal litigation, in which automaker trade groups intervened on behalf of the federal government to support the SAFE rules that sought to strip states of the ability to set their own vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards. These …

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Are SEPs Dead? Outgoing DOJ Strengthens Prohibition on SEPs as Mitigating Remedies

During the final days of the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), which represents the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in environmental enforcement actions, issued a memorandum that summarizes new polices relating to Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs). SEPs are environmentally beneficial projects that settling parties had previously been allowed to undertake either to diminish fines or to serve in lieu of paying civil penalties in order to resolve environmental law violations, and had been popular with alleged violators and …

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Hawaii’s Ban on Oxybenzone and Octinoxate-Containing Sunscreen Takes Effect

Hawaii’s sunscreen ban has officially taken effect. In May 2018, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to ban the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. The law went into effect on January 1, 2021, with the goal of preserving Hawaii’s marine ecosystems.

According to the language of the bill, Hawaii’s legislature found that oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals found in many sunscreens, “have significant harmful impacts on Hawaii’s marine environment and residing ecosystems, including coral reefs that protect Hawaii’s shorelines.” Studies …

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NRD Alert: New Study Links 6PPD Tire Additive Transformation Product to the Death of Coho Salmon in the Puget Sound

On December 3, 2020, a study authored by a team of researchers from the University of Washington was published in the journal Science, linking a transformation product from a common tire additive to the death of Coho salmon in the Puget Sound. Researchers had observed acute mortality in Coho salmon in the area for decades, and while the mortality had been previously linked to storm water, and then later to tires generally, the exact causal toxicant was unknown until now.

6PPD, one of several …

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NDMA―Hiding in Plain Sight

Last month, extended release (ER) Metformin―an oral diabetes medicine that helps control blood sugar levels―joined a small-but-expanding list of prescription drugs, including Valsartan (for blood pressure) and Zantac (for heartburn), that were recalled by manufacturers because it may contain amounts of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) above the acceptable intake limit.

NDMA is a semi-volatile, odorless yellow oil that can form naturally or unintentionally through industrial processes, and is also found naturally at low levels in many foods, such as roasted meats, cheese, and beer, because of cooking …

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EPA Releases Compliance Advisory for UV Devices Designed to Kill Germs, Bacteria, and Viruses

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant shortage of traditional household disinfectant products such as wipes and sprays, numerous ultraviolet (UV) devices have been marketed to consumers with claims that they kill germs, bacteria, and viruses. What some may not know is that UV lights that are sold or distributed with these claims are subject to various federal regulation, including the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIRA), which governs the registration, distribution, sale, and use of pesticides in the United States. …

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New York Takes Next Step in Nation-Leading Offshore Wind Efforts

The deadline for submitting proposals in response to New York’s second solicitation for offshore wind procurement recently expired, with three companies in the running to land contracts, including Vineyard Wind, Equinor Wind, and Bay State Wind (a joint venture of Ørsted A/S and Eversource Energy). Each submitted proposals in response to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s July 21, 2020, solicitation for 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy. These proposals followed along the heels of the state’s 2018 solicitation for 1,700 megawatts of offshore wind, which …

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Presidential Environmental Policy Rigidly Defined by Doubt and Uncertainty

Following what seemed like an interminable and chaotic presidential election cycle, November 3, 2020, is finally upon us, and the country will soon know who our next president will be. Regardless of whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden takes the oath of office come January, what is not certain is how each of their respective policy objectives would play out during the next presidential term―particularly with regard to environmental regulations and oversight. Although one might assume the vast gulf between the two candidates on environmental …

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New Jersey May Be First in Country to Ban Paper Bags

New Jersey is slated to join the ever-growing list of states implementing bans on plastic bags, but a bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature on September 24, 2020 takes the regulation one step further—banning paper bags as well.

The bill, originally introduced in January 2020, seeks to ban “single-use plastic carryout bags, single-use paper carryout bags, polystyrene foam food service products, and single-use plastic straws.” While plastics do appear to be the focus of the bill, it includes language that “single-use paper carryout bags …

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Increase of Climate-Related Weather Events Continue to Threaten Superfund Sites

The U.S. EPA’s Superfund program began in 1980 in response to serious health concerns arising out of a school and neighborhood in upstate New York that was built atop a toxic-waste dumping ground now infamously known as Love Canal—the nation’s first Superfund site. Since then, a list of more than 1,750 sites have cropped up and made it to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List.

Turning to weather-related events—the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned in a 2019 report that 945 Superfund sites remain vulnerable to …

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